Authors: Matthew Blakstad
Matthew’s first career was as a professional child actor. From the age of ten, he had roles in TV dramas on the BBC and ITV, in films and at theatres including the Royal Court. After graduating from Oxford with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, he began a career in online communications, consulting for a range of clients from the BBC to major banks. Since 2008, he has been in public service, using his communication skills to help people understand and manage their money.
Matthew is a graduate of the Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course.
is his first novel.
First published in Great Britain in 2016 by
Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © Matthew Blakstad
The right of Matthew Blakstad to be identified as the Author of the
Work has been asserted by him in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any
means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be
otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that
in which it is published and without a similar condition being
imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance
to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
ISBN 978 1 473 62473 3
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
50 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DZ
You are now a Digital Citizen.
As a Digital Citizen you have your own unique identity. Everything about you, from your medical history to the tax you’ve paid, is stored in one secure location in the cloud.
Do I need any special software?
You don’t need to be a software wizard to access the wide range of
! We have already installed the Digital Citizen software on your device – automatically.
How secure is my information?
Nothing matters more than the security of your information. Our industry partner
works hard to protect your privacy. You can rest assured they are guarding your valuable information very closely indeed.
THIS PAGE HAS BEEN REVIEWED
WE DECLARE IT A LIE AND A FRAUD
NOTHING IS PRIVATE
NO ONE IS SAFE
IT IS IN THE NATURE OF INFORMATION
TO MAKE ITSELF FREE
Comments? Questions? Find us at
‘The trouble with words is, you don’t know whose mouths they’ve been in.’
Who are you?
All I see of you is the shape you leave behind. The world is an engine for logging your desires. In these late days you don’t have identity; you have a browser history.
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All I know is what I see; and I see new news every day, and those ordinary rumours of botwars, celebrity break-ups, stock quotes, mailbombs, cock extensions; of start-ups in Guangzhou, Tallinn, Bangalore; I see podcasts, flame wars, mp3s; I read blogs, memes, proffers, webcasts, phishing scams, RSS feeds and other fresh alarms. Nothing starts anywhere. The story I’m writing isn’t new.
I save and upload: one click, no undo. I shut my laptop and sleep the world. No point thinking consequences. Now it’s out there, nothing’s going to bring it back.
‘Bethany? Christ, are you planning to answer your phone?’
Bethany was in the kitchen when it struck, ministry business strewn across the dining table, two red dispatch boxes standing to attention by her chair. She’d been inching her way through the document that, when she signed it, would
consign fakery and fraud to the dustbin of history
– that at least was how she would describe it when she spoke at the Digital Citizen launch event this Friday. But the tight numbered paragraphs of legalese kept congealing before her tired eyes. The law was so hard to digest in raw form. She’d reread one especially chewy clause for the seventh time when Peter, her husband, stormed in.
She pulled off her reading glasses. He was standing naked in the doorway.
‘Phone?’ she said. ‘Which one?’
‘Which the hell phone do you think?’ he said, nodding behind him into the hall.
But by then she’d heard the jaunty doo-wop of her official BlackBerry.
‘I like the look, babes,’ she said, hopping up and shimmying around him to the coat hooks, patting his bum en route.
‘Godsake, it’s nearly two a.m.’
Bethany fumbled through the pockets of her mac. The BlackBerry was in the last one she tried. As she pulled it out the ringing stopped.
She checked the screen. God, yes: it was 01:54 already; and she had seven missed calls. Her stomach knotted.
‘I wouldn’t worry,
,’ said Peter,
‘it’ll start up again in another twenty seconds.’ He was making his way back up the stairs. ‘Maybe you’d like to fly off to another
so I can get a bit of peace? I slept like a log that week.’
He was looser these days around the rear. Not that she wanted to make comparisons, but.
‘Do you not want to put some ’jamas on?’ she whispered. ‘The boys?’
He didn’t turn back.
‘What I want is sleep,’ he said. ‘I have an eight-thirty conference call.’
‘Well, I have a seven-thirty
And unlike you I can’t do it in my pyjamas. Or in your case butt naked probably.’
But he’d already turned the bend in the stairs. He creaked above her head to the master bedroom and the door clicked shut. She put a hand on the banister to follow; but true to his prediction the BlackBerry kicked off again in her hand.
She answered it quickly to stem the ringtone – stable door, horse.
‘Yes, hello?’ she said.
‘Thank God, Beth. I thought you must have turned in already.’
it be at two in the morning, but Big Krishan Kohli, her sleepless chief of staff?
‘No, Krish. I’m here. What is it?’
She sat on the stairs, the catastrophe-seeking part of her brain already kicking in. Had the PM withdrawn his backing? Had child pornography been found on their servers? Had one of their Digital Champions been electrocuted by his own PC? Krish cut short her list of worst-case scenarios, with the only one she hadn’t considered.
‘They’re saying we’ve been hacked.’
Bethany swallowed, once.
‘Hacked.’ Her voice was stuck in neutral. ‘What, our voicemails?’
‘Not us – real people. The Digital Citizen pilot group. Someone’s hacked their data – addresses, ages, income, medical . . .’
‘No, Krish. No no no.’
Sean had promised her nothing had got out. He’d promised.
‘That data cannot be hacked,’ she said.
‘I’ve already had to hit
on a dozen calls from journos,’ said Krish. ‘It’ll be code red by morning.’
‘Hold on, stop – what do you mean,
we’ve been hacked?